I'm sitting at my desk in a room way too large for just one person, in one of the many buildings at the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf. It reminds me a bit of a rat maze; it's so easy to lose your orientation around here. I'm still somewhat surprised to find myself sitting here, in this lab... finally! I have been looking forward for this for a long time because I have known for a while that I would do my PhD here (at the institute for experimental psychology, main topic: neuroeconomics). I got the offer, to my great surprise, when I was finishing one of my Bachelor internships, and accepted it in the first year of the Master, after careful consideration. Because I already knew my topic, I decided to focus my Master internships on different techniques or approaches, instead of focusing specifically on a topic. I made sure that my literature thesis encompassed the topic of my very first study, which now saves me time searching and reading literature. All of what I have learned during my Master pays off directly: I can start the first pilot of my first experiment already next week!
Still, right now, it feels a bit as if I am doing another (long) internship, except that I have more freedom (and responsibility).
Although I still have to get used to my life here and miss my friends and family in the Netherlands, I have the feeling that I made the right decision. All my colleagues are friendly, helpful and enjoy a good party every now and then. The atmosphere in the young lab is really good, making me feel all the more excited that I will be part of this lab for at least three years. That is one of the differences with a PhD in the Netherlands; here it is possible to finish your PhD in three instead of four years. The payment is less, but the costs for living are also somewhat lower. Düsseldorf itself is very much alive, and has some beautiful spots, the Rhein, and much much beer. ;-) I'm also happy that it is not too far from the Netherlands, so that I can regularly visit family and friends, and they can easily visit me. And at the same time it is not just some boarder town; it has everything you expect from a large German city. I arrived here six weeks ago, staying temporarily in a family home of acquaintances until I have found an apartment. Big difference with Amsterdam: it's quite easy to find something here, and not too expensive (although the Germans would disagree). I actually got the first apartment I visited, and I can move in in December.
A couple of weeks ago I had my graduation ceremony, and I still feel very much like a student. Exactly one week after though, I found myself in front of a group of 11 German psychology students; I was teaching a course for the first time (fortunately for me I was allowed to teach in English...), as teaching is part of the job. Every time it’s an interesting experience, but I still have to find my routine. After all the internships I did during the last three years, it’s the teaching that makes me realize most that I really am a PhD student now…!